Sunday, May 31, 2009

North American Atlas Blackout Bingo

I like to take drives to places I have never visited--I like the perspective of a place where I have not viewed the particular topography, commerce, and institutions. If I end up talking with someone and hearing a unique local story, that is considered a bonus--though I don't seek out that interaction. This informal study of place is an introverted activity for me. I was blessed to be able to travel all over North America and especially South Dakota in my first season of ordained ministry. As I highlighted in my atlas all the places I had visited, my South Dakota map looked like a personalized bingo card: if I was playing blackout, I had one gaping hole in Harding County and surrounding counties. I knew I wasn't going to get there on a family trip, so I took the opportunity when I had it. The opportunity didn't just appear, and the trip wasn't along the way. I made the opportunity when I was close enough to rationalize the journey.

The Western Dakotas display their own kind of beauty, an inter-Badlands region, with impressive geologic formations and tiny ranch towns with one room school houses and fantastic views. The views are difficult to photographically capture, unlike the view I see whenever Mount Rainier is "out" just outside my townhouse complex, or like going to the Grand Canyon or to the cliffs of the Isle of Wight or the Aran Islands. Maybe there is a lack of color contrast in the Western Dakota. Mt. Rainier is easier to see. It's big. It's white. It's up against a blue sky. The bluest sky, as Perry Como used to sing. Thousands of evergreens enhance the coloring and contrast. The Dakotas, though drab, are an acquired taste of browns, yet still beautiful, though more wonderfully sloped than the Eastern Dakotas.

Buffalo was an enjoyable little town--staying longer would have been nice--but I was thankful to take a peek and move closer to playing a game of blackout that I will never complete, but I will enjoy playing. Part of writing this today is that I miss South Dakota a little. I never would have imagined that feeling 6 or 7 years ago--but a lot happened there. Not that I want to return, but because so many great and important things happened there for my dear wife and me, I am glad to say that I miss it in a good way, and that ministry gave me the opportunity to know it well.

No comments: